Good leaders are facilitators. They strike the match which ignites the group—primarily by affirming the members of the group and encouraging them to participate. There are several principles which, if followed, will enable you to be an effective leader.
- Your attitude as the leader is one of the most significant factors in determining the spirit and tone of the discussion. Your respect for the authority of the Bible will be contagious even though you may never express it in words. Your love and openness toward people in the group will quickly infect those around you. Your relaxed attitude and genuine enjoyment of the discussion will spread to every group member from the start of the discussion.
- At the beginning of your first time together, explain that these studies are meant to be discussions not lectures. Then read or summarize the following guidelines for Bible discussions:
- The Bible is our textbook. We should let the Bible speak for itself rather than depending on what we have heard or read about it.
- Stick to the passage being studied. Our answers should be based on the verses which are the focus of the discussion.
- Realize that each person’s part in the discussion helps us to learn. Participate freely, but allow others to also.
- If the study guide has an introductory paragraph, read or summarize this for the group. This will orient the group to the passage being studied.
- As you begin to ask the group the questions in the guide, it will be helpful to keep several things in mind. First, the questions can often be used just as they are written. If you wish, you may simply read them aloud to the froup. Or you may prefer to express them in your own words. Howeber, unnecessary rewording of the questions is not recommended.
- There may be times when it is appropriate to deviate form the study guide. For exaple, a question may have already been answered. If so, move on to the next question. Or someone may raise an important question not covered in the guide. Take time to discuss it! The important thing is to use discretion. There may be many routes you can travel to reach the goal of the study. But the easiest route is usually the one the author has suggested.
- Avoid answering your own questions. If necessary, repeat or rephrase the question until it is clearly understood. An eager group quickly becomes passive and silent if they think the leader will do most of the talking.
- Don’t be afraid of silence. people need time to think about the question before formulating their answers. But try to discern the difference between fruitful silence (when people are thinking) and blanks (when your question seems unclear or irrelevant).
- Don’t be content with just one answer. Additional contributions will usually add depth and richness to the discussion. Ask, “What do the rest of you think?” or “Anything else?” until several people have had a chance to speak.
- Be affirming! People will contribute much more eagerly if they feel their answers are genuinely appreciated. One way to be affirming is to listen attentively whenever anyone speaks. Another is to verbally acknowledge their contribution. Respond to their answers by saying, “That’s a good observation” or “Excellent point.” Be especially affirming to shy or hesitant members of the group.
- Be willing to admit your own ignorance or faults. It is easy for leaders to feel that they must have answers to all questions raised. If a wrong answer is given, or if a leader makes a mistake and fails to admit it, community spirit will be hindered. Admitting our faults and weaknesses will often release the entire group to a new level of openness to God’s grace and to one anotehr.
- Periodically summarize what the group has said about the passage. This helps to draw together the various ideas mentioned and gives continuity to the study. But don’t preach.
- Conclude your time together with conversational prayer. Give everyone who wants to pray an opportunity to pray. Ask God’s help to apply those things which you learned in the study.
- Be sure to end on time. There is always a temptation to allow the study to continue. But if the group has previously decided to begin and end at a certain time, you should respect their decision. Studies that regularly go beyond the agreed time limit will tend to be counterproductive. Better to leave the group desiring more from Scriptures than wishing they had less!
James F. Nyquist and Jack Kuhatschek, Leading Bible Discussions, electronic ed. of completely rev & expanded ed., Logos Library System; Lifebuilder Bible Studies (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1997).